They're Ganging up on Fat People, and
Why Oprah is a Menace

by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer Ph.D.

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I don't know about you, but lately I've started feeling mighty paranoid. It looks like this time the diet industry, the obesity researchers, and the government are getting together and ganging up on fat people all at once.

You've probably seen the headlines a few weeks ago, saying that "overweight" people are now a majority in the US. This declaration was based on the "National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey" which showed that 59% of all men and 49% of all women have a Body Mass Index (BMI) over 25. BMI? Associated Press reports that the BMI is "quickly becoming the standard way of talking about obesity." The BMI, of course, is "body weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared." Huh?

And they wonder why the metric system hasn't caught on in the US! What's your BMI? Does anyone know? Having grown up in Europe, meters and kilograms don't scare me (though I'm still not quite sure how many ounces are in a pint), but I suspect that the term "Body Mass Index" will become just another in the arsenal of weapons used to scare people into buying diet products.

I also got a kick out of the venerable Dr. Albert Stunkard's commentary regarding this horrendous onslaught of obesity. He said: "It's just eating too much." Sometimes I wonder how they spend all those millions on obesity research.

So now, all of a sudden a majority of the population is "overweight." And, by sheer coincidence, some bogus organization named AOA (American Obesity Association) holds a "consensus" conference in Washington passing serious-looking recommendations on how fat people need diets and diet pills. The AOA even had the nerve to virtually copy NAAFA's promotional materials, including layout, and pretending to represent fat people. In a hideous display of bad taste, the AOA, joined with Shape Up America and its cronies in trotting out former surgeon general C. Everett Koop whose once distinguished career is coming to a sad end by the diet barons blatant abuse of an old man and his good name.

All of this nicely coincides with the FDA's recent cave-in on diet drugs which allowed pills with potentially deadly side effects on the market. The diet industry is quite aware of the side effects. Their icy-cold reasoning is: if fewer people die from the side effects of our drugs than would have died from the effects of fatness, then our drugs are justified.

Though such reasoning seems outlandishly inhuman, the diet industry, of course, knows from experience that ANY promise of weight loss, no matter how absurd, will lure millions. Hard earned self esteem flies out the window as fat people everywhere convince themselves that THIS time, the promise of permanent weight loss is for real. And who can blame them? After decades of being ridiculed, abused, discriminated against, and blamed for everything from their own health problems to the national debt, even the most enlightened fat activist may eventually reach a point where he or she caves in and gives the obesity researchers and the diet drug companies the benefit of the doubt. If you or your fat partner weighs 400 or 500 pounds and the knees and back hurt there comes a point of doubt where you think that they might be right and all your troubles are weight-related after all. So what's the harm of trying those drugs?

Don't. You can lose weight on any diet, but it's the beginning of a vicious cycle which inevitably leads to deteriorating health and self esteem.

Some people on NAAFA's electronic mailing list had a wake up call when a fat man talked about his experience with diet drugs and what happened when he went off them. I want you to read it because it really chilled me. He wrote: "I can also pass on one other thing that reading didn't prepare me for: WITHDRAWAL! The first day, not much changed, but once I went to sleep, those lovely, vibrant Fen/Phen dreams turned to cold, paranoid dreams in which I sat freezing and paralyzed, trying to call for help, but too frozen to do so. [Those] were dreams that I have never experienced, and never want to have again. They didn't feel like dreams. They felt like wide awake reality, but I woke up from them... slowly, and with effort. Since that time, I have had MAJOR mood swings, including severe anger and signs of major depression."

As long as I am on the topic I might as well tell you that-in my opinion-Oprah Winfrey is one of the worst things that ever happened to America. Here we have a woman who earns over a hundred million dollars a year, and she seems completely obsessed with her weight. How many times has she gained and lost large amounts of weight, each time celebrating her weight loss as if it was this huge achievement, insulting fat people in the process, just to gain the weight back, declare herself a weak-willed failure, make half-hearted attempts at self-acceptance, and then fall for the next diet scheme. The woman's behavior is appalling and a menace to millions of viewers who, as a result of watching Oprah, internalize fat phobia as a life style and fall victim to eating disorders. Some experts estimate that underweight and eating disorders are the fourth-leading cause of death in the United States, and fat-phobic disasters like Oprah certainly share the blame. Here we have a woman who has all the money in the world, and all she ever worries about is her weight. Does that sound like former Apple Computer CFO Debi Coleman who became so obsessed with her size that she first demoted herself, then retired from the computer company to devote her time to losing weight?

Make no mistake: they ARE ganging up on fat people. They want your money, and they will stop at nothing to get it. I think that's despicable. But all I can do is publish a magazine that says that we love and admire fat people. ß

Editor at Large